In my last post I shared how essential it is for the Body of Christ to be “holding fast to the Head” as it gathers in His name. In this and the next post I’d like to share one of the most important insights I’ve gained as to how the Body can most readily and regularly experience Christ’s headship as it gathers in His name.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:20 ESV
When we assemble as the church, Jesus Christ is personally present with us. This is the most significant aspect of our gathering. His presence changes everything, for He is not there merely as a spectator, a cheerleader, or even a sideline coach. He is there in the fullness of all that He is, to be all to His people. When we gather “in His name”, we gather under His authority to carry out His specific desire and purpose for our gathering. Jesus Christ is personally present to lead us and to carry out His work in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is there as our indwelling Life and as our living Head.
Gathering under the immediate headship of Christ, however, is not something that the Church at large has been accustomed to or is generally expectant of. Ever since the middle of the second century, when the Church universally accepted the intermediary headship of the monepiscopacy (single bishop), Catholic and, later, Protestant streams of Christianity have primarily assembled under the headship of a set-apart man/woman and been directed primarily by a predetermined liturgy or program. The open, participatory, Spirit-led gatherings of the first century church (see 1 Cor. 14:26-40) have been mainly carried on throughout history by an “outside-the-gate” remnant who were determined to maintain the freedom and fullness of the early church by gathering under the immediate headship of Christ as His functioning Body.
In this last day, that “outside-the-gate” remnant is increasing as an end-times witness to the unchanging purpose of God for His Church. The immediate, functional headship of Christ is being restored as the He is being lifted up once again to His rightful place as the unrivaled center and uncontested Head of His Body. This restoration is advancing with great struggle, however, as remnant expressions of the ekklesia are seeking to overcome layers of age-old patterns, religious preconditionings, entrenched traditions, and inflexible structures and mindsets.
I have personally experienced that struggle and yet through it have learned from both the “successes” and the “failures” of what I’ve been a part of. Through the “school of the Spirit” and also of “hard knocks”, the Lord has taught me some deep lessons and given me some precious insights as to how the headship of Christ can be most readily and regularly experienced within his Body. In this post, I’d like to introduce what I consider to be one of the most significant of these, and then go into more detail and practical application of it in a follow-up post.
The “Heartship of Christ”
The greatest secret that I have learned in this regard is in what I’ve come to know and describe as the “HEARTSHIP of Christ”. In fact, I don’t believe that any gathering of believers will ever truly come to know the manifest “headship of Christ“, until it truly comes to know the manifest “heartship of Christ“.
The Priority of the Heart
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Prov. 4:23 NIV
In the innermost being of both God and man there is a vital connection between the head and the heart. Neither of these function independently of the other. Of these two aspects, though, the heart holds the primary place according to the Divine order.
A strong indication of this is that in Scripture, wherever the words “heart” and “mind” are found in context together, the word “heart” consistently appears before “mind”. This regular ordering indicates the spiritual priority of the heart before the head. (See 1 Samuel 2:35, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 26:2, Psalm 139:23, Proverbs 2:10, Proverbs 3:5, Jeremiah 3:15, Jeremiah 17:10, Acts 4:32 as examples.) There is one consistent exception to this pattern, however. The word “mind” appears before “heart” when fallen, sinful man is being described or referenced. (See Deuteronomy 28:65, Psalm 64:6, Isaiah 1:5, Isaiah 46:8 as examples.) According to divine order, then, the heart is ordained to have priority over the head, yet when sin enters in, the order reverses and the head takes priority over the heart.
Another consistent pattern in this regard is that the word “heart” always precedes the word “soul” when found in context in Scripture. Numerous times the phrase “heart and soul” is used, for instance, but never “soul and heart”. The soul is commonly understood to be comprised of the mind, the will, and the emotions and so the aspect of the mind is also implied in the word “soul”. The important thing to understand is that the seat of all of these three aspects of the soul are found in the heart. Therefore, when God wants us to seek Him (Deuteronomy 4:29), return to Him (2 Chronicles 6:38), trust Him (Proverbs 3:5), love Him (Deuteronomy 30:6), serve Him (Deuteronomy 11:13), obey Him (Deuteronomy 30:2) keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 26:16), and the like, He directs His word first to the “heart”, and then to the “soul” /”mind” which will naturally follow after it.
Probably the most well-known example of this Divine order is found in the “great commandment”: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38) Here we see that the “heart” is mentioned first, followed by the “soul”, and then the “mind”. This is the proper order for man to both experience and express the love of God.
According to the nature of God, and of His Divine order for man, then, the heart is to have the priority in all matters, followed by the soul and the mind.
The Priority of “Heartship”
By having an understanding of this Divine order as it exists in both God and man, we can gain a key insight into how the headship of Christ works within His corporate Body.
In the natural body, the head is the highest, most intelligent member that governs the rest of the body. The term “headship”, in its common usage, speaks of both the position and function of the chief, governing member of an organism or organization. The dictionary definition includes: “the position of head or chief; chief authority; leadership; supremacy.” (Dictionary.com) We know from our natural body, and from human institutions, that “headship” is both positional and functional.
In the spiritual Body, the Head (Christ) is, likewise, the highest, most intelligent member Who governs the rest of His Body. Scripture says that Christ is, “… the Head of [His] body, the church…so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent.]” Col. 1:18 AMP Drawing from the “body” analogy, we understand that spiritual “headship” is, likewise both positional and functional. Christ has both the place and the power of governance over His Body as its living Head.
That being said, then, we can further ask, what, if anything, holds the place and the power of governance over the thoughts and intentions of the Head? From what we have seen in Scripture, we know that the heart holds the place of prominence and the power of influence over the deepest workings of the mind. This place and power of governance that the heart holds over the head, according to the Divine order, is what I call “heartship”! This is the heart’s rulership over all of the inner workings within both God and man. Because of this inner supremacy of the heart, heartship precedes headship, and headship proceeds from heartship! All that Christ desires to do for, in, and through His Body as its ruling Head, finds its origins, first and foremost, within His reigning heart. This is the vital relationship that exists between the headship of Christ and “the heartship of Christ.”
This understanding though rather simple in its essence, is profound in its implications. It is one of the most important “keys” to our entering into and experiencing Christ’s manifest headship both individually and corporately. The more we encounter, embrace, and embody the heartship of Christ, the more we will be able to encounter, embrace, and embody the headship of Christ that springs from it! That is the simple truth that I hope you will take from this initial post.
In the follow-up post, I will share in greater detail how we can come into a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ” and thus position ourselves to most readily and regularly experience Christ’s headship in our midst as His Body.
In the meanwhile, I encourage you to follow some of the above Scripture links and take some time to study more fully this matter of the supremacy of the heart in spiritual matters. It is a most beneficial and enriching study!